EPA Report Shows a Significant Reduction of E.coli in Drinking Water

There has been a 50% reduction in the detection of E.coli in Irish public drinking water in the last two years, according to a new report by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This is the EPA’s third report on drinking water quality since new regulations were introduced in 2007 providing for a greater level of consumer protection.

The regulations require all local authorities to notify the EPA where there is a potential risk to human health, and to comply with directions given by the EPA.

Dara Lynott, director, EPA Office of Environmental Enforcement.

Commenting on the report Dara Lynott, director, EPA Office of Environmental Enforcement, says: “The EPA targeted a reduction in the detection of E.coli in drinking water in recent years and today we are seeing the success of this programme with a 50% reduction in two years. Despite this reduction investment needs to be maintained to bring detection levels in line with other EU countries.”

Safety of Supply

Almost 250,000 monitoring tests against national and EU standards are carried out on the safety of our drinking water annually. In relation to the safety of our drinking water, this comprehensive testing regime shows:

* E. coli was detected at least once in 27 out of 944 public water supplies in 2009. This figure is down from 39 in the previous year (2008).

* The number of private group water schemes where E. coli was detected dropped from 134 in 2008 to 87 in 2009.  However, despite this improvement, 17% of private group water schemes were contaminated at least once during 2009.

* Overall compliance with the chemical standards was at 99.2% in 2009. This is a drop from 99.5% in 2008 because of poorer compliance with the new trihalomethanes standard.

* Compliance with some indicator parameters, in particular compliance with aluminium and turbidity parametric values, remains an area for improvement.

Security of Supply

In relation to the security of water supplies (that is, the management of the risks from the source water, through the drinking water treatment plant and supply network to our taps):

* The EPA had identified 339 supplies in need of remedial action in early 2008 and placed them on a Remedial Action List.  Of those, 42 per cent (142) have been removed as the necessary remedial actions have been completed. This includes the public water supplies in Limerick, Galway and Waterford cities which were upgraded in recent years.

* At the end of 2010 there were 264 supplies on the EPA’s Remedial Action List. This includes 67 new supplies added to the list since it was first published in 2008.

* Boil water notices or restrictions of use were put in place on 53 supplies serving approximately 93,000 persons in 2009. Adverse weather conditions in November 2009 alone led to the imposition of boil water notices on 10 public water supplies.

* 44 legally binding directions were issued by the EPA to 16 local authorities in 2008 and 28 legally binding directions to nine local authorities in 2009.

Gerard O’Leary, programme manager, EPA’s Office of Environmental Enforcement, says: “The focused investment in water treatment plants at risk of failing to meet drinking water standards has brought about much needed improvements to our drinking water infrastructure. An additional 500,000 people are now served by supplies that have been removed from our Remedial Action List.”

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